Dear Distancing

By Jolene Bresney


It’s Thursday, another day dressed like yesterday and the day before. As time stretches in this way I have moved into a state of acceptance. Grateful for our health and good food in our bellies. We disagree on what is good. The weather is how I distinguish the days—also a preface to my mood that develops in the forecast. On this half-lit morning clouds are shouldering, the gray underbellies spit brittle sheets in three directions. Clear grains etching rivers on windows. Water rolls off into dirt pooling around pavers. Worms are snaking their way toward food, which includes Lola’s stool, dried leaves and new greens. My mind rewinds to the 4th grade when I learned worms grow back what has been cut off. A life lesson on injury and defiance. The drumming of the rain is soothing yet amplifies sadness hanging over us. Distancing has meant extra together time, interrupted by the lure of the screen. I’m not that entertaining. How can I deny desire for connection even as their eyes are bleeding blank. I have a reoccurring dream foretelling screens are zombie food feasting on my kids’ faces as brain cells mutate their genes. Cleaving black holes that spread like disease draining their supple bodies of life. They can’t read my face or inflections, I’m predictable but when you see with 1/8 of seeing— I am unseen and unpredictable. We dance around our avoidable annoyances. Their knowledge grows around their concentric longings. Seeds dried and lonely and full of all the things forfeited for the well-being of the weakest. I remind them we isolate for grandpa and Aunt Rose. For a friend’s teenage son with cancer. For great grandma even though I worry loneliness may take her before a contagion. We stay indoors like ornaments and pray. For Idialia’s father. For essential workers taking risk because they are without choice or with duty. We pray for those protesting to open the country—a wildfire that will surely end in endings. How to measure acceptable sacrifice is beyond my capacity. We know not what we can’t see, blinded beyond our own suffering. The world is surely sick beyond a novel virus. I mourn for our collective pain. The mother with 3 babies diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer one week before the pandemic stained the world still. I mourn for the hungry and the suicides and the runaways and domestic abuse. The infighting and confusion that is surely rooted in deep pain looking for an exit, a scapegoat. A numbing or replacing of pain with fury and everything different becomes a target. Our words shooting like weapons and orders are deemed as losses. I don’t know who I’m praying to anymore when god looks more like the likes of people than absolute benevolence. When god looks like me, it seems like I’m praying for control, or maybe to a projection of myself. Which is to say I don’t know much of anything. Except for fear and love. I know love is in the Bible over 300 times across all translations and nearly 200 times in the Qur’an. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’ I bury my fears in John and in bread and in warm bath water, like baptism, tvilah and mikveh and wudul and ghusl. The day will come when my children are grown and I’ll live inside new fears. I’ll return to love again and again despite fear. Washing feet dusted with canyon dirt and sand— I hope to be next to the unholy and not-so-righteous because I love ‘ugly’ the most. I have seen such agony crawling on shards of glass to get to a second chance. Bloodied and broken yet hopeful despite cruelty and unfairness. Such pain fertilizes rays of beauty that I haven’t found in gilded years on easy street. I love white picket fences and daffodils but I’m drawn to the lotus flower rooted in mud and scum unsullied by the threat of dirt—growing despite deprivations. 


What I am trying to say is that I am afraid but all we have is love and one story in this one life. I am the worm, the ugly, the unholy, the white picket fence, the lotus in the dirt living in chance.